Memories

Some memories of the Signal Box ...

Signalman, by Dom Grant

In the autumn of 1955 I moved to Chorleywood as Porter Signalman.

This meant that I worked on the platform as well as the signal box. Before I could work by myself I had to learn the box and the Absulote block system which I had never worked before. After training for two or three weeks I had to be qualified by the Divisional Inspector. A week or so later I was informed that I was to take the Vacancy for Signalman full time. This meant working one week from 5am to 1pm and next from 5pm to 1am and every other Sunday from 2.50 to 11.10pm. In those days the station and signal were lit by gas.

I arrived at the station on 4.50 on very dark mornings no street lights in those days as the lights in the road were lit by gas and belonged to the railway and were put out at midnight by the late turn porter.

As I put my key in the side gate I felt someone was waiting to grab me as it was dark and spooky. The lights under the canopy were not too much of a problem as these has pilot lights on them so I just pulled the chain and they were lit. But the ones beyond the canopy were the problem it was a good job I was issued with boxes of matches as I could get through a box on a wet windy morning.

When I arrived at the signal box I lit the two lights and gas fire, perhaps my late turn mate had left the fire on low all night then it was not so bad. I had to phone Rickmansworth and Chalfont and ask if there were trains in section, if there were I would have to wait till they passed before I could to open up the box. We still had a goods yard in those days and a train arrived about 1.00 midday which conveyed coal and builders merchants goods, then returned with the empties.

To celebrate the Uxbridge branch centenary in July 2004, the vintage Cravens set ran from Uxbridge to Amersham, caught on camera heading north through Chorleywood.

Note disused signal box still in situ at the end of the platform [Leslie Townsend]

Train services in those days were all steam hauled with A3, V2, B1, L1, K3 and WDs on the through Woodford to Neasden coal trains. The passenger services then were Met trains from Aylesbury to Baker Street and on to Liverpool Street in the peak hours and Saturday mornings.

Also Eastern Region trains from Woodford, Brackley, Aylesbury to Marylebone. Other trains that passed through during the day were the Master Cutler 7.40 from Sheffield to Marylebone the South Yorkshire in both directions 10.00 from Bradford and 4.50 from Marylebone express Manchester trains at 8.32am, 2.10pm and 4pm from Manchester and 10.11am and 3.20pm from Marylebone plus assorted light engines, parcel and freight trains. I can remember the first time for Aylesbury had left, I accepted an empty coal train from Rickmansworth. I then had to wait until it cleared Chalfont at nearly 2.00am. I soon learnt not to do that again!

Then one Sunday evening we had cows on the line between us and Rickmansworth and I could not close until they were clear of the line. In those days the staff included a Station Master, Mr Wally Stitson, a Senior Clerk, Harry Benning, two Booking Clerks early and late turns plus two Leading Porters [one was Vic Gooderham] and two Porter Signalman [one who was Charlie Brown], also two Signalmen [Alan Porter and me], a far cry from today's manning levels of one per shift for the whole station.

The Signal Box is still in situ, but has not been used since the late 60s, the levers and equipment long gone.

Written by Dom Grant

(Credit to Amersham & District Motorbus Society)

John Woodbridge Memories of Chorleywood Signal Box (Approx. 1956)

My first memory of the signal box was when I started a paper round from W. H. Smiths book stall at the station and train spotting. I met Mr Brown who was in charge of the station including operating the signal box for the daily Goods. He used to let me in the Box when the goods train used to come in. Also to watch the Section boards in the Box showing progress of the train from Ricky or Little Chalfont. If I knew the driver on the goods, then sometimes he would let me in the cab when shunting. The goods yard had 4 tracks, 2 parallel with the main line with headsunts down to Shepherds Bridge and 2 parallel sidings for parking the wagons. Most of the goods that came in was coal for Darvells or Miles. I remember the Fish train twice a week in the mornings that off loaded on the platform for Singletons next to the then National Westminster Bank opposite the station entrance. Also, the first train in the mornings was usually the Chesham shuttle pulled by a C13 tank loco with three coaches.

Daily two named trains passed through the station, The Master Cutler on its way to and from Manchester and Sheffield and the South Yorkshireman. They ran up and down the Great Central to and from Marylebone through Nottingham. Locos could be A3, V2 and B1s when it was BR. Eastern Region (previously LNER who took over from the Great Central in Railway Company Grouping of 1923). It was not the same when the BR Midland region took over and let the railway decline leading to its eventual closure by Dr Beeching north of Aylesbury. The line from Manchester to London was originally planned to go under the Channel to France by the Great Central’s founder Sir Edward Watkin. The tunnel was started near Dover and almost a mile of it was built before being abandoned. At one time you could travel by car carrier and Sleeper from Marylebone to Scotland passing through Chorleywood. When I left school I worked at Amersham Post Office handling mail from and onto trains from the north and south.

John Woodbridge